Patient Education

About Myasthenia Gravis

MG is a neurological disorder that affects the voluntary muscles of the body. Voluntary muscles include arms, legs, facial muscles, chest muscles – anything that the body doesn’t move by itself. It will strike each muscle or muscle group with a different level of weakness.

Myasthenia gravis affects all races, genders and at any age. While the bulk of diagnoses arise at certain ages in men and women, a diagnosis can be made at any time symptoms occur. MG is NOT contagious. Although no evidence currently exists that shows MG is genetically passed on, it is possible that more than one member of a family can have it.

Myasthenia Gravis comes from the Greek and Latin words for “grave muscle weakness”. While it sounds pretty menacing, MG is not a death sentence. Many people with MG can continue to lead healthy, fairly active lives with proper monitoring and medication. A neurologist is necessary to check up on the state of the MG periodically. While MG is not a well-known condition, there are about 36,000 Americans with it right now. Most cases of MG are diagnosed in young women (under 30) and older men (over 55).

Major symptoms of myasthenia gravis:

  • Blurred and/or double vision
  • Involuntary drooping of the eyelids (also called ptosis)
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness in facial muscles
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing and sometimes breathing
  • Difficulty in walking and sometimes talking
  • Unusual tiredness in the arms and legs

If you think you have MG, please see your physician. He or she can refer you to a neurologist, who can find out for sure. Myasthenia gravis is not always easy to diagnose, but when patients respond to medication, it can be treated effectively. With prolonged treatment, some patients will go into remission, but this is not common. Still, there is hope. Continuing research over the years has led to breakthroughs that have vastly improved the quality and length of MG patients’ lives.